Pandemic And "Eviction" Hasn't Stopped SRC From Serving Students

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AMONG THE SRC EVENTS SWITCHED TO ON-LINE FORMAT IS NEXT WEEK'S VOLUNTEER FAIR.

 

The 2020-21 academic year has, obviously, been a challenge for St. Clair students.

For their Student Representative Council (SRC), it has been a double-challenge.

In addition to the multitude of effects on its operation caused by the pandemic and the non-presence (for the most part) of students on-campus, the SRC has been somewhat ”homeless” since the summer.

The construction-launch of the Zekelman School of Business and Information Technology’s Academic Tower, coupled with an expansion of the Student Centre, forced the SRC to vacate its main office space (across from the Tim Hortons kiosk) several months ago.

“The office space isn't part of the construction project, but we couldn't keep our members’ offices or those of our full-time staff operating during the several months it will take to hoist the Tower’s structural steel beams into place,” explained SRC President Jorge Gutierrez.

“So, between the restrictions imposed by the pandemic and our ’office eviction’, we’ve had to completely revamp our operations in almost every way imaginable.”

The SRC’s chief, in-person-contact setting now takes the form of Office Manager Anna Millerman at a desk set up in an alcove in the first floor’s main hallway (across from the cafeteria). Gutierrez also has a desk there to meet and greet students, and assist them with their enquiries.

Meanwhile, a half-dozen or so of the SRC’s full-time employees are working out of temporary offices - a bunch of socially distanced desks - in the boardroom of the Student Centre ... a spot removed from the construction area affected by the structural steel’s installation.

When they aren’t on-site, those employees are working remotely from their home offices.

Meetings of the SRC’s ten-member Board of Directors, its three-person Executive (President and two Vice-Presidents), and most staff meetings have been taking place via Microsoft Teams software - both as an anti-viral transmission method and because the boardroom has now been converted into office space.

[The SRC continues, also, to manage the Downtown Campus’ TD Student Success Centre at the corner of University and Victoria Avenues. It is regularly staffed by SRC board members and a full-time employee.]

Remarkably, despite the ”double-whammy” disruptions and inconveniences caused by the pandemic and the need to vacate its South Campus office, the SRC continues to furnish St. Clair students with all of its customary services except two …

... “The requirement to vacate our main office space included the forced closure of our copy centre,” Gutierrez noted. “We’ve also had to temporarily suspend our SafeWalk program, which provides night-time walking escorts to parking lots for staff and students – because we couldn't seek out volunteers for that program in the midst of the pandemic.”

All other SRC services and programs are, however, still functioning - some of them in adapted fashion. Among them are these:

• the administration of the student health plan. The opt-out period, for those eligible for a refund of the fee (those with alternative coverage) has been extended, this year, to October 23. Info about the plan and the opt-out process is online at https://wespeakstudent.com/home/21-st-clair-college;

• entertainment and awareness programming - during the pandemic, delivered online. The SRC has staged on-line games, trivia contests, cooking lessons, and concerts – and will continue to do so, for as long as the pandemic lasts;

• seed-money and special event funding of three dozen campus clubs, which will be forming on-line this year;

• student publications and social media communications (more about that further down in this story);

• give-aways and promotions, including some “swag” doled out to students as they arrived on campus during the first few weeks of their in-person attendance for labs and workshops;

• advocacy on postsecondary issues at the provincial and federal levels, and during regular meetings with the college’s senior administration;

• consultative assistance for students’ disciplinary hearings, academic complaints and grade appeals;

• the operation of the campus food bank;

• developing and delivering volunteer opportunities for students, on campus and in the community – including, this year, an on-line Volunteer Fair;

• providing hot-line services for mental health crises and sexual violence prevention – among them, https://realcampus.ca;

• services and assistance to student-parents and their families;

• community outreach (including the support of local charities);

• multicultural activities;

• ownership/management/leasing arrangements for most of the food services on campus. That will include, during the next few months, the development of a new Tim Hortons kiosk on the second floor of the Student Life Centre, to replace the existing one in the Student Centre which has been shut down by the Academic Tower’s construction;

• property development and management, in conjunction with the college's administration - including the Student Centre, Student Life Centre, TD Student Success Centre and the Sports Park;

• sponsorship and oversight management of the Saints Gaming e-sports team – still fully operating in this on-line era;

• staffing of the college's open computer labs; and

• providing approximately 200 part-time jobs to students annually (in non-pandemic times) in all SRC-managed departments.

Reviewing that list, Gutierrez noted, “If I do say so myself, between the pandemic and the loss of our main office, it’s a bit amazing that we’ve been able to maintain as many services and programs as we have.

“But we were determined to do that, because our students need our support now more than ever before. The underlying message is that although nothing in life seems to be very normal or stable at the moment, we are still here for students – for anything they need. We’re just a phone-call, an email or a social media message away. And we’re striving to continue to provide not only our ‘hard’ services but our ‘soft’ ones too, in the form of entertainment and stress-relieving programming, because that is much-needed in the current atmosphere.”

The SRC is also publicizing its provision of services and the staging of events in a much wider and more energetic fashion, Gutierrez noted. “We should be unveiling our new-and-improved website (http://stclair-src.org) within the next month, and we’re also posting much more frequently on our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and on our section of the college’s Blackboard app.

“For our event programming, especially, we’ve also added a page on the Ceon platform (https://ceon.ca/event/stclairsrc), with a calendar and links to all of our on-line events.”

Gutierrez and the entire SRC “deeply regret the circumstances created by the pandemic, which prevents us from our customary in-person interaction with students, both individually and in large group settings. Like all students, we look forward to the day when we can all be together again, academically and socially, to fully enjoy the college experience.

“Until then,” Gutierrez concluded, “I just want to re-emphasize that we are here, working on behalf of students, and eager to help them with any issues they are facing.”